Saturday, September 4, 2010

Jacob stores no retouching policy

Jacob has announced a new "no retouching" policy for their ad campaigns. The ads show three photos; the raw image, the slightly re-touched image they plan to use for their campaign, and the fully retouched image that they would have ran before this policy.

According to the press release:
With the launch of its new fall campaign, JACOB has committed to no longer digitally alter the bodies of its models in images for both its JACOB and JACOB Lingerie brands....

“As a socially responsible company, JACOB has always made an effort to promote a healthy image of the female body. By adopting an official policy and broadcasting it publicly, we hope to reverse the trend in digital photo manipulation that has become excessive in our industry,” says spokesperson and Communications Director Cristelle Basmaji. “Our decision to never reshape the bodies of our models is particularly innovative for our JACOB Lingerie campaigns.”

The basis of the new “no retouching” policy is to promote an honest and realistic image of the female body. However, JACOB is not against all forms of touch-ups. Certain digital enhancements cannot be avoided in order to produce an image the size that is required for advertising. In all transparency, JACOB will continue to retouch its photos in some regards, as there will always be a need to calibrate colours for better product representation and to even out skin tone or erase tattoos and scars.

Here is an example

I will concede that the first two images are more realistic than the third. That being said, I would definitely like to draw attention to the fact that we have a young, thin, white model who conforms to all of the dominant beauty norms wearing underwear and high heels to sell clothing. With only one example available at the moment, it is hard to say whether they will promote a "healthy image of the female body" but I am of the opinion that this image isn't it.

This ad campaign is not particularly different from mainstream ads, but I do like that it shows the image as it would be retouched, which hopefully will expose some of the ways that photoshop works in advertising to people who would not otherwise see these before and after images.

I am also a bit upset about the no tattoos or scars policy, as I have written about before, there are times that I think that these 'imperfections' are better than the retouched images would look, but maybe that is just me.

So, is this campaign better than most of the images out there? Yes, it is. It shows how retouching works to raise the standards of beauty to something that is absolutely unattainable to women in real life, which is a good thing. It definitely goes further than most campaigns. But unless the other images that are yet to be released feature models whose appearance varies a bit more from dominant beauty standards, this is not going to be enough to change how women see themselves in any significant way. But it does get them in the news, and get bloggers (such as myself) talking about them, so I'm sure this campaign will at very least help them sell more clothing.


  1. I like your critique of these ads. I think this campaign is good for exploring what is possible and what (maybe) isn't in corporate social responsibility. I would be willing to bet that the ad's creators had to fight pretty hard to convince their clients that this idea would work, although the Dove campaign set a precedent that would have helped.

    As marketing, I think it is brilliant. The use of 3 images invites us to linger over them and scrutinize them (like those "spot 10 differences" pictures for kids)--I'm not sure whether you find this aspect of it disturbing. The ad (and the copy around the campaign) presents an image of Jacob as an ethical organization, but it's able to do that in a way that seems unlikely to alienate anyone. I'd say they have found a way to have their cake and eat it too.

    I think it also has some social value. It doesn't directly challenge our ideas about female beauty, as it might if it featured models that were not conventionally attractive. However, it clearly makes the point that the kind of beauty advertising presents to us does not exist in the "real world", even when we include supermodels as part of that world. And just being able to look at billboards and magazines and say "that's not real" is, I think, important.

    However, I'm surprised that this kind of timid challenge is as far as retailers seem willing to go. Faces and bodies with some character, that show some evidence of life and experience, are incredibly arresting when photographed well. Are advertisers afraid to associate their products too closely with reality? Is the belief that we only buy those things which inhabit our fantasies?

  2. Great comment... I don't have a lot to add to it. I'm not going to get started on the Dove campaign today (I am no more impressed with it than I am with this one), but yes, it did set a precedent for these kinds of campaigns. And I did the spot the differences thing myself, until I realized that it leads to a whole new level of objectification of women's bodies.